Monday, 19 October 2015

A Little Yellow Slip

It has been a very hectic day today. It wasn't meant to be. It wasn't planned this way. It just was. It all started with the Home Care Aide coming an hour late. That impacted my ability to get to my driver's test on time at 2:00 PM; I made it about 15 minutes late. That impacted my meeting with the ALS Clinic Manager down at the South Health Campus on the other side of Calgary. I made my 3:30 PM appointment at 4:00 PM. By then, the highways were jammed and traffic was nasty, so we decided to go a different sort of way home, up Stony Plain, across 17th, up to Memorial and on home from there.

That's where it happened, on 17th Avenue, in the middle of rush hour traffic. I am usually a very safe driver, more than responsdent to traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. Only this time I completely missed the blinking yellow lights at a crossing. I knew I missed it when I looked in my mirror and saw the blinking lights and the guy crossing the street. That is also when I noticed the Calgary Police Service vehicle in what would have been the lane next to me.

As the lights stopped me at the next intersection, he pulled in behind. I knew what was going to happen; it happened. His lights went on, so I pulled into a parking lot, out of traffic. The CPS pulled in behind me. As the office got out and walked towards me, I made the first move, saying "I'm sorry, officer. I am completely in the wrong here. I truly missed that light completely, and I apologize. I know you have to give me a ticket, but is there any chance you could make it a warning? I am usually a very safe driver."

His response was interesting. He looked at me and said "Give me your driver's license, insurance, and registration. We'll see what we can do." There was hope! Then he looked at my truck and asked, "How long have you had your truck rigged up this way?" I said"Three years. Is this business or are you just interested?" He said "I'm curious."

Now, I get all kinds of stares at my wheelchair rig in my truck. EMS, fire department, even random people in parking lots; they all stare at it. They are all curious. It makes sense that it would interest the cop. And hey, it's not his fault I blew the pedestrian light. So I gave him a run through.

I opened the door to show him the hand controls. At that moment, his partner, who had been carefully guarding Katherine on the passenger side, walked briskly around the truck so he could see too. I showed them how the controls worked, how the lift seat got me in and out. I showed them how the wheelchair crane worked, even dropping the wheelchair to the ground so the cop could unhook and hook it up again. The we tucked it all away.

I also took the time to explain ALS to the both of them, to help them understand why I was in the chair. I told them my story in the briefest possible way, so they could see how fortunate I was to still be driving almost 3 years after diagnosis, when I should have long lost this ability. The officer stood back for a moment, saying nothing. It was almost awkward, so I said "I know you have paper to write. Do what you have to do."

The two officers returned to their vehicle. After a suitable wait, the officer came back and said, "The fine for running that light is $776 dollars." My jaw dropped. "Why?" "Because you put someone else's life at risk when you did that. What if he had walked a bit faster? At your speed, you would have killed him if you had hit him." I swallowed hard and said, "I understand." I was prepared to take my lumps and learn my lesson.

Then he handed me a ticket and said "This is a warning." There were other things he said, perhaps a shorter story for another time. When all was said and done, we parted, his partner giving us a bright smile and a wave as we drove out into traffic.

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